2024 FPC Directory Updates

It Is Well

Posted by First Presbyterian on

Here's the next installment in our Immeasurably More blog series.


Recently I found myself on a flight to Louisiana to celebrate the life of my 94-year-old great grandmother, Nanny. We're still in the midst of the Covid pandemic, and our plans for the memorial were further delayed because of Texas’ “Snovid” pandemic from just weeks ago. The world is still in an uproar, but I am calm. I am happy. I am at peace with her leaving us, but I do not know why.

Elaine Fortenberry, my Nanny, lived a long and inspiring life. She married Quitman, my great-grandfather, when she was 14.  Together they raised two girls, Geneva and Judy, amongst Quitman’s 11 younger siblings and their families in Lake Providence, Louisiana. Nanny was a fine cook. She never knew if she would have 5 or 15 to feed “dinner,” (what we call “lunch”) but she was always prepared. She was selfless and  kind. She lost a daughter, Judy, my great aunt, in 1970, many years before I was born, and she and Grandaddy Quitman went on to raise Paige, their granddaughter, in their home. I was the first of her great-grandchildren. She was only 59 when I was born, and I will always remember her as fragile but strong. Her skin always seemed thin as paper to me, as she was one of the oldest people I knew, which is laughable now. She spent hours on her feet in the kitchen on a daily basis but would always make me “hot ham and cheese,” in the microwave no less, much to her disliking.  She spent nearly three decades as a widow, as Grandaddy Quitman died 27 years earlier to the day of her passing, on February 14th, 1994. Since having Hardy, my oldest, in 2015, we have had five living generations at once, and that is something my family is incredibly proud of.

As I sit on the plane, flying to be with my family, I have in my air pods listening to my worship playlist. To be honest, it is only because I'm hoping to be inspired to write this piece before my deadline hits. When the Immeasurably More team suggested “A Season of Renewal” as the topic for the spring, I was lost. To feel renewed, as Sally Green wrote a few weeks ago, is to rest in His presence, and lately I feel anything but rested. With a household of two small kids, a plethora of drop-offs and pick-ups, potty training and early risers, rest is not something that comes easy. And although I know “by the book” how to seek renewal, it wasn’t coming.

My playlist is mostly “oldies but goodies.” I have added new songs through the years that seem to imbed themselves in my mind with their significance, but it my playlist isn't filled with a surplus of today’s Christian hits. I have always felt if I kept it rudimentary, the songs would hold a deeper meaning to me. However, I had no reason to believe that rationale, until one song on my flight sat just right with me: “It Is Well with My Soul.”

Horatio Spafford was a prominent investor and attorney who sadly knew much of unexpected loss in his life. He lost his fortune in the Chicago Fire of 1871, and shortly after, his four-year-old son died of scarlet fever. In need of a change for his family, he sent them on a ship to England while he stayed back to finish business in Chicago. Unfortunately, the ship collided with another and sunk. Over 200 people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford’s daughters. His wife, Anna, survived. Upon arriving in England, she sent a telegram to her husband that began: “Saved alone…” When he received the telegram, Spafford immediately left for England on the next ship and on his voyage wrote these words…

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll—
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Did you just take a deep breath in like me? Nearly at a loss for words, my mind longs to comprehend this peace. It is overwhelming. Spafford’s restfulness and trust were overpowering. He was a walking example of Philippians 4:7, “May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Can you imagine writing those words after losing five of your children? I cannot, but in Christ we can.

I can only begin to compare my peace with Nanny’s passing to Spafford’s loss, but it was a peace that I have never felt before. In Bethel Music’s version of “It Is Well” they sing “through it all my eyes are on you, and through it all it is well.” That is where my peace resides. Nanny’s eyes were fixated on God her whole life, and my eyes were on God through my grieving her loss. Since “The Season of Renewal” topic was presented to me, I have longed for understanding and enlightenment. I have prayed for Carrie McKean’s “dawn” to present itself to me in any way! I have rummaged for a new insight, only to discover it was here in me all along… in a hymn I knew so well. That renewal already lived in my faith; it just needed a resurrection.

Though lyrics I could sing in my sleep, embedded in my soul after years of hearing the song, I found my “Season of Renewal” in Him and in that hymn, and it is well with my soul.